"THEY are variously known as the Net Generation, Millennials, Generation Y or Digital Natives. But whatever you call this group of young people—roughly, those born between 1980 and 2000—there is a widespread consensus among educators, marketers and policymakers that digital technologies have given rise to a new generation of students, consumers, and citizens who see the world in a different way. Growing up with the internet, it is argued, has transformed their approach to education, work and politics.
But does it really make sense to generalise about a whole generation in this way? Not everyone thinks it does. “This is essentially a wrong-headed argument that assumes that our kids have some special path to the witchcraft of ‘digital awareness’ and that they understand something that we, teachers, don’t—and we have to catch up with them,” says Siva Vaidhyanathan, who teaches media studies at University of Virginia.
Michael Wesch, who pioneered the use of new media in his cultural anthropology classes at Kansas State University, is also skeptical, saying that many of his incoming students have only a superficial familiarity with the digital tools that they use regularly, especially when it comes to the tools’ social and political potential.
Related: The Myth of the Digital Native